In December 2021, The Taub Center published a special study on the Youth Bulge, Violent Crime, and Shortages in the Israeli Arab Marriage Market. The study, which was written by Professor Alex Weinreb, the Director of Research and head of the Demographic Research Program at the Taub Center, was the first to examine the increasing violence in Arab society and the changes in the Arab marriage market from a demographic perspective. The study thus provided policy makers with an important perspective on this issue.
According to the study, there is a bulge in the cohort of young adults in Arab society, in which a large proportion of the men lack higher education and an employment horizon. This combination may lead to civil and political instability, particularly with respect to crime. During the last fifteen years, the level of education has risen among Arab women in this cohort, but not among Arab men. Furthermore, the data show that during the coming decade a reversal is expected in the ratio between men and women of marriable age. These two processes will have a significant impact on traditional marriage norms in Arab society and will threaten its traditional foundations, while at the same time increasing already high crime rates in Arab society.
Nonetheless, according to Professor Weinreb it is still not too late to save the situation. During the coming decade, the cohorts of young Arabs reaching maturity are expected to be smaller in size than at present. We therefore have an opportunity to encourage the social integration of these young people, which should include improving their level of education and rates of labor force participation. At the same time, the leaders of the Arab communities should work to prepare young Arab men for life in a less patriarchal society, in which the women will be more educated, will participate more in the labor market and will be more independent than in previous generations.
Since the study was published, its findings have been presented in dozens of meetings with relevant policy makers, such Omer Bar Lev, the former Minister of Internal Security, Yair Maayan, the Director General of the Authority for Bedouin Development and Settlement in the Negev, Orna Barbivai, the Minister of the Economy and Industry, and senior officials in organizations such as the Center for Local Government, the State Comptroller and the Bank of Israel. The meetings introduced the policy makers to a demographic perspective on the issue of violence in Arab society and raised their awareness of the importance of investing effort in solving the problem.
As a result of these meetings, there has been a reevaluation of the way in which resources are allocated and utilized with the goal of reducing the level of crime in Arab society to whatever extent possible. Thus, for example, a discussion was initiated on long-term policy alternatives, such as investing in education and social welfare and the creation of employment opportunities for young adults. Other options were considered that can mitigate the existing tension and promote the social and economic involvement of young adults in Arab society.
The study has had an impact on the discussions of various public policy issues, including those that at first don’t appear to be related to personal security. For example, in the meeting with Professor Nahman Esh, the Director General of the Ministry of Health, which among other things discussed the shortage of manpower in health professions, the possibility was raised of increasing employment of Arab men in those professions. Such a measure is likely to provide a solution to the manpower problem in this sector and at the same time will reduce unemployment and violence in Arab society.
In the meeting with Attorney Mariam Kabaha, the Equality of Job Opportunity Commissioner in the Ministry of the Economy and Industry, she explained that promoting education among Arab women was originally an effort to improve their attractiveness in the marriage market. Thus, because an academic education expands employment opportunities, educated women offer the promise of a second source of income. In view of the study’s findings on education gaps between men and women in Arab society and their contribution to the tension between the genders, it appears that this process had additional effects and Kabaha was interested in possible ways to mitigate those negative effects.
Other government officials who we met with following the publication of the study include Member of Knesset Yoav Segalovich, the Deputy Minister of Internal Security, who was in charge of the government project to reduce crime in Arab society, called “A Sure Path”. Deputy Minister Segalovich said that the study added a unique point of view to the discussion and had contributed new ways of thinking to the long-term planning to deal with the issue. Meir Cohen, the Minister of Social Welfare, emphasized the importance of empirical studies in policy planning processes. He said that he had taken what was presented to heart and expressed a desire to share the findings with the ministry’s senior officials.
Apart from policy makers, the study was also presented to civil society organizations. Professor Weinreb met with representatives of non-profit organizations in the mixed city of Ramla as part of a conference of the Jewish Federation of Kansas City. The participants in the meeting showed interest in the analysis presented and stated that the study’s findings stressed the importance of investing resources for the benefit of men in Arab society.
The studies of demographic issues published in recent years by the Taub Center, and in particular the study of violence in Arab society, have helped make demography a new domain of study at the center. In March 2023, the first meeting took place of the Demographic Research Program headed by Professor Alex Weinreb, which was attended by his colleague in the program. Following this, a second meeting of the Demographic Research Program was held in May.
Up until now, demography has suffered to a great extent from a lack of attention among research bodies in Israel and surprisingly even among leading universities, who have no research program or comprehensive training in this area. This shortcoming is particularly noticeable given Israel’s unique demographic characteristics and the critical role of demography in the planning of future policy. The establishment of the Demographic Research Program at the Taub Center has filled in this gap and it is now the only research institute in Israel with a department focused solely on demography.
Professor Weinreb: “Demography affects every part of public policy: the education system, the labor market, healthcare, social welfare, infrastructure and essentially the entire economy. But apart from the raw numbers, the composition of the country’s population, including its age profile and the various segments that make it up, is of major importance. A thorough understanding of the population’s composition makes it possible to understand its future implications and to prepare for them accordingly. I am proud to be heading the Demographic Research Program at the Taub Institute.”